We have been to Scotland several times, but never to the Highlands. We are planning a two week trip to the Highlands in Sept. 2010. We are thinking of having a different base for each week. Would anyone have a suggestion where it would be nice to have a base so we can take day trips. We plan on renting a car. Thanks for all of your help.
Inverness makes a great base. We have been many times. We don't drive there- we use trains and buses. We also use day tour services. Lots to see and do around Inverenss- cruise up Loch Ness with stop at Urquart Castle, cruise on the firth, distillery tours, day trip to Isle of Skye and Eliean Donnan Castle through Great Glen or Glen Coe, Ft. William, Ft. Agustus, Cullodean Battlefield, Clava Cairnes. You can even do a LONG day trip all the way to John O'Groats and the Orkney Islands.
I also like Aviemore- a small village in the Caringorm Mts. Good day trips there too- lots of whisky distilleries, Blair Athol and Blair Castle, the Rothmurchie estate with walks/hikes, canoeing, horseback riding, a restored steam train that does round trips along the Spey river, the funicular up Mt. Caringorm, a microbrewery that does tours and samples, etc.
I agree Toni that Inverness area is a good base. The Highlands is a big area. I've done day trips for walking from Strathpeffer and the Black Isle (both in the Inverness area), west to Plockton, Ullapool, Skye, Glen Afric, and Torridon. We've gone north to Dornoch, Golspie. We've gone east to Elgin and the Spey Valley. I've gone south to Rothiemurchus and the Cairngorms and you could certainly get to Kingussie. I personally think that you need more than a day for Orkney.
What you aren't reaching is the west in the area of Fort William, Oban and the western Isles. You also can't reach the far north--Sutherland, the area north of Ullapool. And you're not able to reach Aberdeenshire where a lot of the castles are.
For my second week, I would either go east to Aberdeenshire to do some Castle hunting and combine that with Spey Valley and sometime in the Cairngorms or I would go west and look into exploring the Oban/ Fort William area with a visit to Mull. In Aberdeenshire you could look into Ballater as a possible place to stay.
BTW there are some lovely little towns near Inverness that you might want to stay in. Feel free to PM if you want some more suggestions. I love to drive when I am in Scotland. The wee roads are terrific. If you like single malt whisky, look for Iain Banks Book Raw Spirit on Amazon.co.uk. Great book on the search for the perfect dram.
Thanks for the info, it will be a lot of help in planning our trip.
Gosh, Jimko, I wish I could go with you. I'm glad to see you plan to drive. It's ever so much easier and convenient that trying to take the train. I'd also recommend Inverness as a base for one of your weeks, the second week is a bit more of a poser. Do try to fit in the Black Isle and Skye if possible. Be be sure to hug our slimy/scaley friend at Drumnadrochit as well.
Drumnadrochit is home to more than "our scaly friend". There are some excellent pubs there. One winter we spent a few days with firends who lived in the village. They took us to their "local" pub and the barman prepared a Scotch tasting for us. I learned a great deal and found a whisky I love (Bellvinnie 12 year double wood). The food was also excellent. There are some local crafts people in the are, too. Lovely pottery and other things as well.
Laurel, pack your bags and come with us. We agree with you regarding renting a car. When we drive if we come to a quaint village we can stop and visit the village, if we were on a bus/train we wouldn't be able to. Thanks for all of your info.
I'm ready and I think we should take Pamela as our guide...
With two weeks, you might want to think about something a tad different. For not much more than the price of a moderate hotel, you can rent a self-drive cabon cruiser and go from Inverness to Ft William and back in a week -- at the gut-sucking speed of three or four knots. The route covers most of the Caledonian Canal/Great Glen -- through Loch Ness and the other four or five along there. Stop where you want, eat in pubs. Really easy to do, even if you've never driven a boat. Google them, there's a bunch. We've used Caley a couple of times and been very happy.
Ah, wish I was going in September. It looks like it's going to be July for me this time. The last time I was in Scotland in July, I was i my 20's...ah well. I'm sure your trip will be wonderful. Don't be afraid to get lost. ; )
September is a good time to go because the worst of the midges should be over! Especially this year following the very hard winter Scotland is experiencing at the moment.
I second spending time at Ullapool. Fantastic little town. Stay the night and really get a feel for it.
If you go to Ullapool put aside some money and plan on buying a sweater at the local woolen shop. I've picked up several sweaters there and I love them. They carry sweaters from Orkney and around the isles as well as locally knitted sweaters. Also, there are some lovely walks in the hills above Ullapool. There's a small bookstore there as well. Pam
Hi, from what I remember September is one of the driest months in the Highlands.
Another vote for Ullapool area.
The whole of the coast is astonishinly good.Be getting much cheaper too, schools are back.
The Loopally festival is 17/18 September this year.
The radio 4 Food programme name the chippy there,the best in Uk 08..they are yum ,right by the harbour.
Good area for beaches, trips to the Summer Isles,the mad little road of sutherland,Stac polly
This place maybe on your travels
The trip over to Cape Wrath should still be possible,think the boat stops running Oct.
We stayed at Ardgarry B and B and loved it. See: http://www.ardgarryguesthouse.co.uk/ Great services and wonderful hosts. It is a 10-15 minute walk to grocery stores, laundry, and downtown. Free parking is available also. We went to Johnny fox pub for 3 nights and loved all three. Different music each night, but all were good entertainers.
We spent 4 weeks near Oban last May and that is a beautiful area, with lots to do, and the ferries depart Oban for many islands. Oban itself is a nice town, sort of a gateway to the Highlands. We preferred the more pastoral scenery around Oban to the stark, wild, austere Highlands further north. We liked Inverness also. Julia
If you decide that the Inverness area is a good base location, you might want to go just a little further to the town of Foyers and check out the Foyers Bay House.
My wife and I stay there everytime we visit the Highlands. The location is on the back side of Loch Ness about midway. The food is excellent, the accomodations are excellent, the value is unbelieveable, and you'll be situated on the banks of Loch Ness with a waterfall behind you.
They have a website...check it out. It's a treasure.
I have been to the Highlands about five times, mostly for hiking. Inverness, I think, would not make a good base, but I am not sure what your priorities are. The best scenery is in the western Highlands. Skye, Glen Coe, Loch Carron, Kintail, Glen Nevis, Mamores, et. al.
Say what you will about Fort William, it is in a excellent location. You can head east to the Cairngorm, northeast to Loch Ness and Inverness, south to Glen Coe, north to Kintail and Syke.
A walk along the ridge of the Five Sister of Kintail (or dozens of other places in the Western Highlands) on a fine day is just hard to describe.
Good that you are renting a car. The only way to travel in a rural area IMHO. MUCH more efficient.
Thank you everyone for all the information. I'm sure it will help a lot.
I would also recommend the Glengarry Castle Hotel in Invergarry. My wife and I have stayed there twice and soon to be our third time. We love it!